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Health and hunger: nutrient response to income depending on caloric availability in Nepal

Mohammad Ali, Kira M. Villa and Janak Joshi

Agricultural Economics, 2018, vol. 49, issue 5, 611-621

Abstract: Using data from NLSS III, we estimate nutrient‐income elasticities for macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals. We further allow for differential nutrient demand response to income depending on where a household is in the caloric availability distribution. We find that some nutrients are income inelastic indicating that they are necessity goods while others are relatively income elastic. We further test and reject equivalent nutrient‐income elasticities across the caloric availability distribution. Households in the lowest calorie quintile have highly income elastic nutrient demand leaving them vulnerable to income fluctuations. Moreover, as households meet their first‐order caloric needs, they substitute away from cheap calorie‐dense staples toward more expensive nutrient‐dense foods. Finally, for most nutrients, households in the highest calorie quintile exhibit more elastic nutrient demand, similar to households in the lowest quintile. Our results suggest that policies aimed at improving income will likely also improve household nutrient availability, particularly for the most calorie poor households. They further suggest that policies aimed at protecting poor households from negative income shocks will also likely yield nutritional benefits.

Date: 2018
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